Hostility towards online worlds
In today’s “Online Worlds and Social Networking” seminars we discussed Boellstorff’s (2008) ethnography of Second Life. I found myself in the strange position of having to defend Second Life from some students’ dismissal of this 3D online environment. A number of seminar participants dismissed Second Life as merely ‘a game’ and/or as the preserve of loners escaping to a fantasy world. Before I knew it, I was defending the anthropological immersion in other worlds and the need to avoid prejudging the alien ways of others. This was not something I had anticipated I would have to do.
In fact, one thing that Boellstorff does very well in this monograph is show that complex virtual worlds like Second Life must be understood on their own terms. This requires that we switch off our prejudgments and invest some time in learning about what makes virtual residents tick. As always with anthropological fieldwork, if it matters to the natives, then it matters to the researcher.
At any rate, it was good day in the office, and I look forward to further discussions. Thanks to all seminar participants for getting me thinking about these complex issues (which are by no means settled).